Project Overview

Project title: Responding to the U.S. humanitarian crisis in Guatemala through Student Academic Training: A Feasibility Study on Educational Opportunities for At-risk youth

Location & period of the project: From January to May 2016 in Guatemala

Research components:

(1) Research (80%): The research component aims to develop an evaluation and feasibility study of an educational/technical program carried out by the Universidad del Valle (UVG). The study will assess a pilot project the UVG carried out with funding from the United Stated Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Violence Prevention Program through a grant from the Research Triangle Institute (RTI)’s Central American program. The project benefited at-risk youth from violent regions. The research will consider the possibilities of enhancing and expanding this vocational training program to returned youth from the U.S. and children coming of age in the child welfare system in Guatemala.

(2) Teaching (20%): The teaching component seeks to support the field research through training workshops to be conducted at the UVG main campus in Guatemala City. Training workshops are being organized with  UVG faculty and students from the PhD program in Applied Psychology. The series of 3 seminars will be designed and delivered jointly with them from February to April 2016. Participants will include faculty and graduate students from UVG and staff from various private and public institutions, and national and international organizations.


The project will assess the outcomes of a vocational program for minors from regions with high prevalence of violence (drug and gang-related) that the UVG carried out with USAID funding, which ended in 2014, and benefited 70+ youth aged 15-18 years old (now young adults) from Coban. Although most youth at risk in Guatemala come from violence-prone areas, two groups (minors currently in the child welfare system and youth returned from the U.S.) were not defined as intended beneficiaries – the crisis in the child welfare system already existed but the humanitarian crisis had not been declared at the time of program design. The project will assess the feasibility of an enhanced and expanded educational program for the intended beneficiaries, i.e., at-risk youth currently served, and the intended population, Guatemalan minors returned from the U.S. and youth currently in the child welfare system.

Intended uses and Contributions

The project seeks to inform those developing and funding the program, as well as policy advocates and other supporters of youth at risk in Guatemala. I seek to make a significant contribution to the human services, social science and social work disciplines by providing a model for assisting children at risk from this humanitarian crisis, which may be replicated in El Salvador and Honduras, and in other countries suffering from violence and confronting similar crises around the world.

Models that bring together multiple society actors, such as academic, private and public institutions, can provide a promising alternative solution to address the migration of minors due to violence and poverty, particularly those creating new educational and socioeconomic opportunities for youth at risk. This project also aims to enable academics and practitioners to document the UVG pilot program as a case study, and to use it as a practice model for teaching in relevant disciplines. Faculty and students involved will gain greater knowledge about combining social action with research in a project that has an educational component, and the development of a 3-part training seminar on topics related to the research. Both UVG and Elon University will benefit from this project by creating opportunities for joint collaboration towards innovation in international education and research.